So, I have no comments yet about the 2nd Wings of Fire arc, except that so far I do like it as much as the first arc, but I’m stuck for a couple of days waiting for the third and fourth books to arrive. At least it’s giving me a chance to go back to the first five-book arc and re-read those. I’ve forgotten plenty of details, so that’s fine.
But I did jump ahead to see who the pov protagonists are for the remaining books because I really, really wanted one of those protagonists to be Qibli. Yay! He is the pov character for the last book of this arc.
Now, why I like Qibli — from the title of this post, you know why. Because he’s really smart and perceptive and Tui Sutherland does a fantastic job making this clear in the first book of the arc, Wings of Fire 6, Moon Rising.
Really brilliant characters, I love them, and they’re fairly hard to write, so probably for that reason among others, we don’t see that many of them in fiction. I don’t mean geniuses like Archimedes in Bradshaw’s Sand Reckoner; I mean smart in a more general or tactical sense. I was trying to think of a top ten list and how the authors pulled off the trick of writing them. Not sure I can get to ten, but this has been a really good year for very intelligent characters, so let’s see:
1) Qibli from the Wings of Fire series — I’ll start with him because he made me think of this list. Sutherland does it by having him think of more things more quickly than any other character, and by having his thoughts chain together into rapid and coherent conclusions and perceptions. Very nice job! I loved him from Moon’s perspective and I expect I’ll love him when he gets center stage in his own book.
2) Jarrit from the Magic’s Poison series. Gillian Bradshaw does it by having him always be ten steps ahead of everyone else, even when he is in terrible physical shape and half-conscious; by giving him cutthroat political instincts; and by having his most important weakness be an inability to predict what really stupid antagonists might do.
3) Ben Ryder from the Extraction trilogy. Haywood does this by having him murmur a series of stream-of-consciousness thoughts at important moments as he figures something out, and by the way other characters react to him and he reacts to them. He just cannot believe Emily hasn’t figured out various important things; he is the only one Mimi more or less treats as an equal, and so on.
4) Bren Cameron from the Foreigner series. (Hey, where’s the next Foreigner book?) A great contrast to Jarrit, because it’s hard to imagine Bren ever doing anything to anyone that’s as vicious as the kinds of things Jarrit, when properly motivated, can do. Bren is so much quieter and less ostentatious, but his political instincts are also top-notch, obviously.
Anybody know anything about Foreigner 20? Because usually CJ Cherryh has brought a new one out about this time every year and this year, no sign of one.
5) Janos in The Thousand Names series. He’s terrifying because we never see inside his head, and it’s really hard to tell whether he’s actually a good guy, and of course things get really complicated with him at the end. By refusing to let the reader see inside Janos’ head, Wexler emphasizes his brilliance. The reader never has a clue what rabbit Janos will pull out of a hat till it’s right out in view.
6) Lymond from Dunnett’s series. Again with the killer political instincts. Also with never seeing anything from Lymond’s point of view. Very intense series. The first book can be read as a standalone; the second book is not the strong point, so if you go on with this series, don’t stall out on that one and quit. I don’t feel Dunnett really knew where the series was going until after that.
7) Miles, obviously, from the Vorkosigan series.
8) Vlad Taltos, from the Taltos series
In both of the above series, the authors pull off tactical brilliance and we have no idea how hard they had to wham their heads against a wall as they figured out how to get their characters out of the corners they painted them into. I would never be able to do that, or at least I hope I could, but wow, I wish it were easier to come up with brilliant tactical solutions to intractable problems after your protagonist is stuck.
And … that is not ten.
Who has someone to add to this list? Recommendations are very welcome, especially if the brilliant protagonist is also an admirable person.